FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Over his nine-year career, Danny Amendola has earned a reputation as a dependable wide receiver – smart, good hands, runs good routes.

In the playoffs, however, he becomes one of the Patriots’ most valuable offensive players. Soon after the Patriots defeated the Tennessee Titans 35-14 in the AFC divisional round Saturday night, tight end Rob Gronkowski lauded Amendola after the veteran receiver set career playoff highs with 11 catches for 112 yards.

“He works his tail off and he’s just Danny ‘Playoff’ Amendola,” said Gronkowski, who caught six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. “For real. Every time the playoffs come, big games, he’s always there. He’s always stepping up his game.”

Amendola’s previous best playoff output came last February in the Super Bowl, when he caught eight passes for 78 yards with a touchdown and the tying 2-point conversion in that unforgettable 34-28 overtime win over Atlanta.

Amendola, whose father Willie coached one year of football at Massabesic in 1987 (Amendola was 2 at the time), typically dismissed his efforts, saying, “We have a lot of good football players in this locker room, and we all played well enough to win tonight.”

But even Coach Bill Belichick, who seldom dishes out individual praise (at least for his own players), knows what Amendola means to this team, not just as a receiver, but also as a punt returner. He returned three punts Saturday night, averaging nine yards a return, and safely handled four others.

“His ball handling, his reliability, dependability, is exceptional,” said Belichick. “Handling the ball on these punts in conditions like tonight (cold and breezy), it’s not easy. And, as we saw, there were several times when he had guys breathing right down on top of him, standing right there when he was catching the ball, so it just put a little more pressure on it.

“But Danny had great concentration. (He’s) really a smart football player, makes good decisions, good judgment, knows how to get open, makes some big catches in tough situations. So he’s kind of a guy you take for granted, but he delivered a lot tonight, as he always does.”

Amendola signed with the Patriots as a free agent after Wes Welker left for Denver. While he has had some injuries over the years, he’s always been considered one of the team’s toughest players. This year, he caught 61 passes for 659 yards and two touchdowns.

In five seasons with New England, he has played in 11 playoff games and has 42 catches for 473 yards (11.3 yards per catch, an increase over his regular-season average of 9.6) and four touchdowns.

“Steady Eddie,” said Matthew Slater, referring to Amendola by another of his nicknames. “I don’t know if I’ve been around a tougher guy, mentally or physically, in 10 years of pro football. I mean, the guy is … we joke around and call him ‘Steady Eddie’ and ‘AWD, All Weather ‘Dola’ … you love having a guy like that on your team. He’s so reliable. And it seems like in the big moments, he just makes plays.”

BRANDON BOLDEN was another player who received a lot of postgame love. The seldom-used running back and special teams ace scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter and rushed for 27 yards on four carries, both career playoff highs.

“He’s just a great teammate, friend, a great person,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “He’s someone I’ve been in a lot of meetings with and a lot of walk-throughs and a lot of games with. You have those relationships with those guys, and when you see them do well when their number is called, it’s pretty cool.

“He deserves it. He’s a really special guy.”

Bolden, in his sixth year after signing as an undrafted free agent, was cut at the end of training camp, then re-signed two days later.

GRONKOWSKI CONTINUES to move up the NFL’s all-time playoff lists. His touchdown catch was the 10th of his career in the playoffs, the most by a tight end. Dave Casper of Oakland had seven. Only two players in NFL history – Jerry Rice (22) and John Stallworth (12) – have more postseason touchdown catches.

With his 81 receiving yards, Gronkowski moved into second place for receiving yards by a tight end in the playoffs, and he’ll surely move into first next week. He has 835 yards, just 12 behind Dallas Clark.

THE EIGHT sacks by the Patriots were not only impressive because they set the franchise record for a playoff game, but because of who the sacks came from.

Two came from 2017 fourth-round pick Deatrich Wise Jr. Two came from 2015 third-round pick Geneo Grissom, and one each from undrafted rookie Adam Butler, 2015 fourth-round pick Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy (acquired in a trade from Detroit in 2016) and Marquis Flowers (acquired in a trade from Cincinnati in August).

THE GAME-TIME temperature was 24, with a wind-chill of 13. That meant a cold night for the fans who filled Gillette Stadium, and it was good news for the Patriots, who are now 13-2 in games played when it was 24 or colder.

The last time these teams met in the playoffs, in a divisional-round game on Jan. 10, 2004, the temperature was 4 degrees with a wind-chill of minus-10. That’s the coldest game in Patriots history, home or away. It was so cold, in fact, that beer was freezing in cups before fans could get back to their seat.

New England won that game, 17-14, and went on to win their third Super Bowl in four years, defeating Philadelphia, 24-21.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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